Afghan peace talks only 'informal' so far due to shadowy Taliban leadership: Holbrooke

Washington: Although there has been an upsurge in the number of high-level Taliban leaders showing interest in Afghan reconciliation process, the present talks are far from any formal negotiation due to the lack of a clear Taliban leadership structure, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said.

In a CNN programme, Holbrooke disclosed that the contacts so far involve "an increasing number of Taliban at high levels" who have approached President Hamid Karzai's government to talk about possible reconciliation, but cautioned that the talks so far are less formal than a full-fledged peace process to end a war now in its tenth year.

According to Holbrooke, media reports may have created the false impression of formal negotiations akin to the process that led to the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian conflict. "That is not the case," he stressed.

Holbrooke said that the lack of a clear Taliban leadership structure has prevented the contacts so far from approaching any kind of formal negotiation.

"There's no Ho Chi Minh. There's no Slobodan Milosevic. There's no Palestinian authority," he said in reference to well-known peace negotiations involving Vietnam, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East. "There is a widely dispersed group of people that we roughly call the enemy," he said.

Among the elements comprising enemy forces in Afghanistan are al Qaeda, "with which there's no possibility of any discussion at all," as well as the Afghan Taliban, which "seems to be a loose organization with a very shadowy arrangement," Holbrooke said.

He also named the Pakistani Taliban- a terrorist group that that has tried to attack the United States, the Haqqani network, which he called "a notorious, separate group of Afghan Taliban inside Pakistan who do a great deal of the mayhem and carnage inside Afghanistan," and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba- the militant group involved in Mumbai terror attacks.

"Now, I've just listed five groups. An expert could add another 30," Holbrooke said. "So the idea of peace talks ... doesn't really add up to the way this thing is going to evolve," said Holbrooke, emphasising that a successful solution to the Afghanistan conflict remains a "daunting task," and that a military solution is not the goal.

"We can't win it militarily, and we don't seek to win it militarily because a pure military victory is not possible, as Gen. Petraeus and his colleagues have repeatedly said," he said.

"The American public should understand that this is not going to be solved overnight," he said. "It is going to be a difficult struggle. It has a political component, where you're not trying to win this war militarily, and a Dayton-type negotiation is also very unlikely. But some kind of political element to this is essential, and we are looking at every aspect of this," the US envoy added. (ANI)

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